LA CAÑADA — Coming off two straight defeats, the La Cañada High boys’ soccer team rebounded to pick up a much-needed win in its Rio Hondo League match with visiting Blair.
The league foes played to a tie in their first meeting earlier in the season and Friday’s tilt had league standing and playoff ramifications.
It would be the Spartans who were able to control all facets of the game in the second meeting, mainly the pace of the game and time of possession to prevail, 3-0, over the Vikings at La Cañada High and maintain third place in the league standings.
“Huge win,” said Spartans Coach Alex Harrison, whose team improved to 11-4-5 overall and 4-2-2 in league play, while Blair fell to 8-11-1, 4-3-1. “I told our boys this is a game-breaker — we either give up third place to Blair and fall to fourth for the first time in a long time or we take care of business. We had to win it.”
The Spartans came out attacking, which led to numerous shots on goals and golden opportunities. It eventually resulted in a goal in the 36th minute when sophomore forward Lawrence Ku drove up the middle and left it for a streaking Andrew Meeker on the keeper’s left side.
Meeker was able to get a good foot on the ball and break the scoreless tie late in the first half. La Cañada never looked back.
Minutes earlier, the two had the same scoring opportunity. Ku left the ball for Meeker with one defender between them, but Meeker’s shot was stopped by Blair’s keeper, who couldn’t coral it. To his good fortune, however, the ball went off the right post.
The two didn’t waste much time in capitalizing and changing the result on their next chance.
“We had some good possessions and were passing the ball well,” Meeker said. “I just got a very selfless pass from Lawrence. It’s an asset when you can get a pass on a two-on-one.”
Harrison called it a good half as his players walked off the field.
“We were knocking on the door for like 20 minutes before the second half,” he said. “Our boys aren’t always patient. We stress moving the ball, being patient and the ball will find the back of the net.”
The all-important insurance goal came 18 minutes into the second half when Keivan Meshkat was the beneficiary of a misplayed ball on Blair’s part. The senior midfielder took advantage and struck a ball past the Vikings keeper to give the Spartans a 2-0 advantage.
“We wanted to keep the momentum in the second half,” Harrison said. “They switched from a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3 and I told our forwards there’s a 1-v-1 every time.”
La Cañada’s keeper and co-captain, Graham Labran-Boyd, made a pair of key saves shortly after Meshkat’s goal, as he staved off Blair’s urgency before being replaced late in the second half when there was little doubt in the outcome.
Armaan Zare added a third goal in the 72nd minute. The Vikings let their frustration get the best of them, with three players receiving a yellow card, and it carried over after the match to no avail.
“We came out a little lazy,” Vikings Coach Henry Cabral said. “They had a nice rhythm and played their possessions well. They had their opportunities and buried them.”
As the regular season draws to a close, La Cañada will look to finish strong and enter the postseason with momentum.
“We just need to take care of business,” Harrison said. “Third place isn’t normal for La Cañada soccer, but it is what it is. We knew it’d be a hard year and this was a tough game.”